The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) in the United States has taken a stance against performing unnecessary surgery on intersex children.
The organization, which was founded in 1947, issued the new guidelines earlier this year.
Intersex people are those born with variations in their sex characteristics. This can include chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals.
Most of the time, these variations are benign and non-threatening, meaning intersex surgery is largely cosmetic. Doctors regularly began performing surgery on intersex infants and children in the 1960s.
Rationale for this action stemmed from surgery prior to adult memory would be less traumatic, as well as a single gender identity being preferable (especially with ‘clear’ genitalia). Parents also sometimes wanted to ‘fix’ their children.
Vocal criticism gained steam in the 1990s, especially with the founding of the Intersex Society of North America in 1993.
Some studies have found negative consequences of these invasive surgeries, including scarring, incontinence, sterilization, and psychological trauma.
Unnecessary and harmful
‘Many intersex children are subjected to genitalia-altering surgeries in infancy and early childhood without their consent or assent,’ the AAFP wrote in their statement.
‘The surgery can lead to decreased sexual function and increased substance use disorders and suicide. Scientific evidence does not support the notion that variant genitalia confer a greater risk of psychosocial problems.’
Several other medical and non-medical organizations have also condemned the practice.
They include the World Health Organization, three former US surgeons-general, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and more.
Recently, California became the first state in the US to stand up for intersex rights.